Beloved Saguaro Christian Church,
Greetings! I pray that these words find you well. I continue to lift you in prayer each day, trusting that the power of God’s love, which keeps us connected, rests peacefully within you. For the most part, I am fine. Mercifully, the days pass quickly as we begin the preparations to hand off this mission soon. It turns out that being deployed during the holidays is unideal. Who knew?!? The Army made it look so quaint on the brochure.
Luckily, the mail keeps a steady traffic of support coming into our offices. I wanted to express my gratitude for the two enormous boxes of goodies and the Advent Wreath. It was a huge hit. The irony is that we have all worked so hard to lose weight and get into shape on this deployment. Many of us are risking gaining that weight back eating our holiday feelings with all the stuff coming in the mail. I have started working out twice a day so that I can eat the good stuff with no guilt. There is no way I am going to pass on Christmas cookies.
The Advent Wreath is beautiful. Most of the people who come to our chapel program are part of religious traditions that don’t utilize this worship practice. I must have had twenty questions about it the first week. After so many conversations, I didn’t know what they would think of it. They love it, however. We run stripped-down and simplified services in Iraq, but when I introduce some traditional elements, I have been surprised by how welcomed the practices were. It will be interesting to see if any of these soldiers try to introduce an Advent Wreath into their churches back home.
I will miss the sanctuary of Saguaro CC this Christmas. It is my favorite time of year to worship with you. I tried to recreate some of that ambiance here, but I literally blew up the Christmas tree. It was a pre-lit tree and I forgot to check the wattage requirements. You would have thought that I learned my lesson with the coffee pot from back in June. There are so many things I wish they had taught me in Seminary. I have now added basic electrician skills to that list.
I pray that these next weeks are a true blessing. It is peculiar to lead soldiers during these days as they are conducting the operations of war. There is not a lot of gloss here. This is definitely not a Hallmark setting. In some ways, it has led me to consider Advent anew, free from the presents, parties, and general consumer saturation of the holiday. In the sparseness of this place, I find myself preaching the following theme: Advent is an experience in the unfiltered wonder of God. Within that journey, tragedy becomes the paradox of God’s grace, for out of the brokenness of the world’s despondence the promise of God’s peace is born. It is not the jolliest of sermon series, but there is part of me that thinks it is probably closer to the truth of that historical reality many years ago. Don’t feel too sorry for my chapel goers; I make it up to them by singing Christmas songs instead of Advent songs. It is a little trick I picked up from [our music staff,] Keith Koster and Jeff Myrmo!
I hope to write you one more letter before I leave. If I am not able to do so, then I say with all my heart: Merry Christmas.